The Crusaders booked their place in the Super Rugby semi-finals on Saturday with a 28-13 win over the Bulls in Christchurch.
The Crusaders booked their place in the Super Rugby semi-finals on Saturday with a 28-13 win over arch-rivals the Bulls in Christchurch.
The seven-time champions must now wait for the result of the second qualifier between the Reds and Sharks to find out whether they must travel to Hamilton to face the Chiefs or Cape Town to meet the Stormers.
History suggested that the Bulls, who have never won in Christchurch, were up against it. And with the penalty count heavily against them, the visitors struggled from the start to trail 16-3 at the interval.
The Bulls outscored the match winners by two tries to one but were the victims of their own mistakes against a polished Crusaders side that controlled the key periods of the game.
The core elements of the Bulls' game – their accurate kicking game, line-out and rolling maul – were malfunctioning horribly in the early stages, meaning they were unable to maintain any sort of pressure on the home side. And once the Crusaders got a decent lead, the result never looked in doubt.
Dan Carter was able to give the hosts a 6-0 lead early on after Zane Kirchner was penalised for not releasing and Dean Greyling was caught offside.
The lead was stretched to 13-0 when Zac Guildford scored the opening try on 26 minutes when Carter drew Steyn, opening a gap for the wing to race home untouched.
Carter added a cheeky drop goal (with his right foot!) to extended the gap to 16 points and although Steyn could pull three points back just before the break, the Crusaders were cruising.
The Bulls weren't helped by a series of injuries either as hooker Chiliboy Ralepelle and both wingers were forced off in the first 45 minutes.
The Crusaders were playing with impressive composure and their error-free display pushed the Bulls into further mistakes. Juandre Kruger was found offside and Steyn hit Carter high, allowing the All Black pivot to add six more points to leave the men in red 22-3 ahead.
The South African side were more accurate in the second period but the horse had already bolted. Just after the hour mark they finally executed a classic line-out and drive with Dewald Potgieter crashing over at the back of the maul.
Carter kept the scoreboard ticking, meaning Wynand Olivier's late try, following a good run from Kirchner, could hardly qualify as consolation for the team from Pretoria.
Man of the match: Dan Carter was his usual brilliant self and ended with a 23-point haul but we'll go for captain fantastic Richie McCaw who, despite playing out of position, showed the world he is still on top of his game.
Moment of the match: Once the home team had a solid lead thanks to Guildford's try, the Bulls were always going to battle to get back into the game.
Villains of the match: All those 'rugby fans' in Christchurch who stayed at home, leaving plenty of open seats at a small ground.
Pens: Carter 6
Tries: D. Potgieter, Olivier
Crusaders: 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Adam Whitelock, 13 Robbie Fruean, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 Zac Guildford, 10 Dan Carter, 9 Andy Ellis, 8 Richie McCaw (c), 7 Matt Todd, 6 George Whitelock, 5 Samuel Whitelock, 4 Luke Romano, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Corey Flynn, 1 Wyatt Crockett.
Replacements: 16 Quentin MacDonald, 17 Ben Franks, 18 Tom Donnelly, 19 Luke Whitelock, 20 Willi Heinz, 21 Tom Taylor, 22 Sean Maitland.
Bulls: 15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Akona Ndungane, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Wynand Olivier, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 MornÃ© Steyn, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 Pierre Spies (c), 7 Jacques Potgieter, 6 Dewald Potgieter, 5 Juandre Kruger, 4 Flip van der Merwe, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 1 Dean Greyling.
Replacements: 16 Willie Wepener, 17 Frik Kirsten, 18 Deon Stegmann, 19 Wilhelm Steenkamp, 20 Jano Vermaak, 21 Louis FouchÃ©, 22 Francois Venter.
Venue: AMI Stadium, Christchurch
Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Keith Brown, Glen Jackson